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Monday, August 25, 2008


MMajor Fan

This is very interesting and astute analysis, and all true. However, it is important to keep several things in mind to moderate one's reaction and to do the most good. The first is to recognize that one must be very patient with China. The Communist form of government will be only fifty-nine years old on October 1 of this year. If you put that in American terms, with the Declaration of Independence in 1775, China is in age as the United States would have been in 1834. When one looks at it that way, as much as others may deplore its shortcomings, there has been a remarkable evolution from the original Communist vision in a short 59 years. What seems as slow as paint drying to us is quite alarming to a government who has responsibility for over one billion three hundred million souls. Remember, Mao has been dead and the Gang of Four who were to blame for the "Cultural Revolution" excesses arrested only thirty years ago. The government felt burned during the liberalizations that culminated in 1989 but then resulted in the Tiananmen Square demonstration and suppression. So I actually have been relieved to see the liberalization resume at all, and certainly at the pace that it has. Yes, I wish that Catholics were not tormented, persecuted and arrested. But there is something that they can do to help themselves in this regard too. That is to not try to serve two masters: God (via their Catholic faith) and social/political advocacy. I cringe when I read about bishops who on the one hand should be focused on shepherding their flocks and building respect and confidence by the Chinese government in their sincere piety, but on the other hand dabble in social/political/economic and environmental commentary. The reason that Catholics are often singled out by the Chinese is because they respect the potency of the Catholic faith, the Papacy and the power of its message and mission. The Chinese, therefore, realize that Catholics who so strong through the ages can be a potent destabilizing force in areas outside of their faith, such as pushing changes on the Communists faster than either they or, in their opinion the populace at large, can absorb. It is one of those examples of the degree of persecution being something of a compliment. Recognizing that reality, I urge Chinese religious and laity to emphasize the establishment of trust by focusing on the cultivation of their faith, and leaving social and political advocacy to other groups. Remind yourself that the United States was very fragile in 1834, the same age as the People’s Republic of China, and the United States had no where near the scale of challenge that China has with a population that has gone through a revolution with great suppression and suffering, and is now making remarkable progress, as impatient as we may be. I believe that as the Chinese government increasingly perceives Catholics to be very worshipful people first and foremost and not chomping at the bit to be social and political activists, that suppression will decrease and progress will accelerate. One never goes wrong when one’s primary focus is on God, and one can only set a good example and build confidence even among those who do not share the faith in fullness, or even at all.

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